The Nationals are bringing back postseason hero Howie Kendrick on a one-year, $6.25 million deal with a mutual option for 2021. The Washington Post’s Jesse Dougherty was the first to report that a deal was close, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported the term, and USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale chipped in with the finances and that the deal was finalized:
Source confirms: #Nationals close to bringing back free-agent infielder Howie Kendrick. Will be one year-deal with mutual option. Had two year-offers, but preferred to go back to D.C. First reported: @dougherty_jesse.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 6, 2019
The Washington #Nats bring back Howie Kendrick, he signs one-year, $6.25 million contract. Deal is official.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 6, 2019
The 36-year-old Kendrick was arguably the Nationals’ most important player during their World Series run this past fall. He hit a tiebreaking grand slam in the 10th inning of Game 5 of the NLDS to lift the Nats past the heavily-favored Dodgers, posted a .333/.412/.600 slash line in the NLCS and winning the series MVP as Washington swept the Cardinals in four games, and then hitting a two-run, go-ahead home run in Game 7 of the World Series that essentially clinched a Nationals World Series victory.
He was no slouch during the regular season, either, as he posted an insane .344/.395/.572 slash line with 17 homers in 370 plate appearances. To borrow a term from the NBA and, most recently, Outraged Old Man Twitter, Kendrick was on somewhat of a “load management” plan in 2019 due to his injury history and his defensive inadequacies. Kendrick, who has experience at every position except pitcher, catcher, and shortstop over his 14-season career, was limited to the infield in 2019, and it’ll likely be that way again in 2020. There are actually ample opportunities for Kendrick to settle in at a single position next season. If the Nationals don’t bring back Ryan Zimmerman and/or Matt Adams, Kendrick could be in line to see more time at first base. With Brian Dozier and Asdrubal Cabrera both free agents, Kendrick could settle in at second base (though that may be his shakiest defensive position at this point). And with Anthony Rendon likely departing D.C. via free agency, Kendrick could soak up some of the available time at third base if the Nats don’t replace Rendon with a free agent such as Josh Donaldson.
While the Nationals have quite a few free agents remaining from last season’s World Series club who are still on the market (all the infielders listed above plus Stephen Strasburg, Daniel Hudson and Gerardo Parra, among others), they’ve made a solid amount of progress towards keeping as much of that team together as possible. Catcher Yan Gomes was brought back last week on a two-year, $10 million deal, and now the Nats have Kendrick back in the fold. With all of that said, Nationals owner Mark Lerner said yesterday that the team can’t afford to bring back both Rendon and Strasburg in 2020, and while it’s possible that that’s just a negotiating tactic, it definitely doesn’t seem like a good sign for the group being reunited entirely next season.